School Places, a startup which aims to lower prices for private education in Australia, while helping schools fill places, is the product of a genuine “light bulb moment”, according to chief executive Natalie Mactier.
The startup, which is backed by Seek founder Paul Bassat’s venture capital firm SquarePeg, launched this month and so far 11 Victorian schools have signed up.
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Mactier says School Places plans to launch in New South Wales by July and hopes to be a nationwide by the end of the next financial year.
“In actual fact we’ve had a range of enquiries from schools outside of Victoria already,’’ she says.
School Places’ 25-year-old founder, Jeremy Wein, who attended private school in Melbourne growing up, says the business idea came about thanks largely to his family’s long association with private education.
“My family have been involved with private education for most of their lives, as a student, teacher and board member,’’ he says.
“We would often be talking about private school issues at the dinner table.
“The number one issue that kept coming up was fees, and that they were getting far too high and something needed to be done.”
One night his parents were speaking about it and Wein just happened to be browsing a discount travel website, within earshot of their conversation, when a thought popped into his head.
“If revenue optimization is as important for schools as it is hotels and airlines, and there are discount websites for hotels and airlines, then shouldn’t there logically be one for schools.’’
And with that, School Places was born.
“This is the first of its kind locally, and globally we haven’t been able to find anything similar,’’ Mactier says.
“I firmly believe that most research this day and age is done online, and mums are definitely online, whether it be on Facebook or social media keeping in touch with friends, or researching schools.’’
According to the Independent Schools Council of Australia, in 2012 Catholic and independent schools accounted for almost 35% of Australia’s student enrolments.
The startup hopes to offer discounts of between 10% and 30% for places.
Mactier says School Places has been met with a “little bit of trepidation” by some schools who prefer a more traditional approach, but those that are open to the startup’s idea appreciate what it is trying to achieve.